The role of data centers in the future of energy

Bulk power distribution towers in New Jersey. (Photo: Rich Miller)

As power grids modernize, data centers are likely to become key players in new energy ecosystems that combine multiple sources of generation – including renewable sources like wind and solar – as well as energy storage. energy. That’s the view from our DCF Data Center Executive Roundtable, as we end our panel with a discussion of how digital infrastructure builders can best manage power constraints and issues. of durability.

Our panelists include Ryan Baumann of Kohler Power Systems, Rhea Williams of Oracle and Infrastructure Masons, and TMGcore CEO JD Enright. The conversation is moderated by Rich Miller, the founder and editor of Data Center Frontier. Here is today’s discussion:

Data center boundary: A number of regions face limitations in power supply availability for heavy users. What are the best options for data centers to operate and grow in low power markets?

RYAN BAUMANN, Kohler Power Systems

Ryan Bauman: Our goal is to create a resilient power delivery system that focuses on the future and considers new energy sources that need to be coupled with today’s power. The combination of traditional sources, such as nuclear and hydroelectricity, as well as sustainable regional solar, wind, fuel cell and battery storage systems will be needed to provide robust energy with a renewed and strengthened electricity grid.

Bundling our current electrical system, the macro-grid, and pairing with site-based micro-grids (wind/solar/fuel cells/backup sources) designed to support each other can also help sustain regions to limited food. Bearing in mind that almost all data centers are designed with an emergency backup power system, usually Tier 2 diesel generators, ready to provide power at any time.

These generator sets built today are cleaner and significantly more efficient than their earlier cousins. By using cleaner fuels, such as hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) or natural gas generators instead of diesel, we can begin to get rid of fossil fuels. Emission reduction strategies for diesel backup power generators could allow data center customers to operate more frequently, if necessary, during grid-constrained events to reduce the strain the data center places on the electrical network. Interruptible rate programs were a very common practice and may be needed again as we continue to make our data center power consumption ever more efficient and strengthen network power.



Jean-David Enright: Quite simply, implement technologies that require and consume less electricity while delivering equal or better performance. Additionally, consider using infrastructure that can operate sustainably and reliably with alternative energy sources, such as behind-the-meter applications on or near the source of generation, i.e. wind farms, solar fields, natural gas production, nuclear, geothermal, hydroelectricity, etc. .

It is understood that this will initially require more CapEx for backup batteries and generators to support N+1 and higher operations, which is often the requirement for data center availability commitments. What is the real cost of being more environmentally sustainable? I believe that is still being determined.

RHEA WILLIAMS, Oracle and Infrastructure Masons.

RHEA WILLIAMS, Oracle and Infrastructure Masons.

Rhea Williams: I don’t think we have the opportunity to develop only in these regions. We’ll consume whatever is available over the next 12-18 months, and then we’ll have to explore alternatives. Second-tier markets and entirely new regions will need to be developed.

Additionally, as an industry, we need to re-evaluate how we not only consume, but produce energy. This is an opportunity for us to be at the forefront of innovation in electricity and power generation. We will need to move away from the network of these markets, become more sustainable and give back to local communities.

Free resource from Data Center Frontier White Paper Library

Sustainable Data Centers
A new era of sustainable data centers

The energy footprint of data centers will certainly increase as our reliance on artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things and 5G increases. Another factor driving even greater data usage is that the world’s population will continue to grow, which will require more devices, connectivity, and more. Get the new paper that discusses what electricity providers are currently offering in major data center markets, what data centers are doing to be as efficient as possible, and how data center customers can support sustainability.

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NEXT: A recap of our Q3 2022 roundup, including full transcripts of our Executive Insights.

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Ramon J. Espinoza